High cholesterol is a common health condition in Canada, with roughly 40% of adults classified as having high cholesterol levels. But this does not mean you should take it lightly because high it puts you at greater risk of a heart attack.
As with other pre-existing conditions, you may be wondering how your high cholesterol diagnosis will affect your life insurance rates. While insurers assess each applicant on a case-by-case basis, you can still get affordable insurance with it, especially if you are otherwise in good health.
What exactly is high cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance and not inherently bad. The body needs it for several things, such as building cells and making hormones. However, too much of cholesterol is a health concern. In high concentrations, cholesterol clogs the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack.
Cholesterol cannot dissolve in water, so it cannot travel alone in the bloodstream. To help carry it, the liver produces lipoproteins, which are mainly of two types, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein(HDL). Any cholesterol that attaches itself to low-density lipoproteins is called LDL cholesterol, which is often also called the “bad” cholesterol because it builds up on the walls of the arteries, narrowing them and limiting the blood flow.
HDL cholesterol is any cholesterol that moves in the bloodstream by attaching itself to high-density lipoproteins. It is also called the “good” cholesterol as it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the body.
A blood test — called a lipid profile or lipid panel —is the only way to know if your cholesterol levels are high. To interpret your test results, use these general guidelines:
- Below 5.2 mmol/L is desirable
- Between 5.2 – 6.2 mmol/L is considered borderline high
- Above 6.2 mmol/L is considered high
- Below 3.5 mmol/L is considered ideal
- Above 4.0 mmol/L is considered high
- Above 0.9 mmol/l is desirable
The connection between high cholesterol and life insurance
Life insurance companies assign a health classification to each approved applicant based on their mortality risk. It is simple, the longer you are likely to live, the better the health classification and lower your price. Cholesterol is one of the factors that insurers evaluate. It is important because higher cholesterol increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke, which can lead to premature death.
Can I get life insurance with high cholesterol?
Yes, you can obtain life insurance with a high cholesterol diagnosis. Contrary to what some may think, a medically underwritten policy is not necessarily costly for people with this health condition. If your total cholesterol is barely over 200, you may well qualify for preferred life insurance rates.
Applicants who have moderately high cholesterol (total cholesterol under 300) but are otherwise in good health are likely to receive standard rates. If you have other health conditions on top of high cholesterol, like high blood pressure, you may receive sub-standard life insurance rates. That said, some insurers may still be willing to offer you standard rates if you are taking all your medications and following a healthy diet and lifestyle. People with severely high cholesterol (total cholesterol over 300) are likely to receive sub-standard rates, which are considerably higher than preferred life insurance rates.
Generally speaking, life insurance companies are not likely to turn down your request for coverage due to cholesterol alone. For the most part, you can buy the same types of life insurance policies — term life, whole life, and final expense insurance — available to a healthy applicant. Let’s discuss each one of them in greater depth.
Term life insurance
Term life insurance is offered by every insurance company. It provides coverage for a set number of years or until a certain age. Your monthly premiums and the death benefit do not change throughout the policy term. The insurer pays the death benefit to your beneficiary if you pass on during the term. If you outlive your policy and still need coverage, you may have the option to renew it without submitting proof of insurability.
Term life insurance is often called the purest form of life insurance because it has only one purpose — to provide life insurance protection. Unlike whole life insurance, it does not include an investment component. As such, it is also much cheaper.
For most applicants with higher cholesterol, term life insurance is likely to be sufficient. It is simpler, easier to understand, and more affordable. Plus, it offers life insurance coverage only for as long as you need it.
Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance provides coverage that lasts your entire lifetime, provided you pay the premiums. Along with lifelong protection, it includes an investment component. A part of your insurance premiums is used for building cash value, which grows tax-deferred and can be accessed by you any time and for any purpose.
Generally, the policy beneficiary receives only the death benefit amount. Any unused cash value at the time of death reverts to the life insurer. Compared to a term life plan, whole life can be six to ten times more expensive. Nevertheless, it can be a better option than term life for applicants with higher cholesterol in certain situations.
For example, you may want to consider it if you have a child with special needs. Likewise, high-net-worth individuals who have maxed out traditional investment vehicles may benefit from buying whole life from an insurance company.
Final expense insurance
Final expense insurance is a small permanent life insurance policy designed to help your family pay funeral expenses and medical bills when you die. These life insurance policies do not require a medical exam. In most cases, you there are no invasive health questions, either. You can qualify for it regardless of your health. However, keep in mind the death benefit is usually not more than $50,000.
A final expense policy can be a worthy option if you do not qualify for a traditional policy on account of cholesterol and other pre-existing conditions, such as obesity.
Things to keep in mind when buying life insurance with high cholesterol
If you are applying for life insurance and have higher cholesterol, the life insurance company may want to know:
- How high your cholesterol is?
- How long you have had high cholesterol?
- Are you taking any medication to control cholesterol? If yes, which ones?
- Do you have any other risk factor, such as nicotine use, diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure?
- What does your diet look like?
- Do you exercise regularly?
Your answers to these questions will help the underwriter and life insurance company decide how well you are managing your condition. Do not be too concerned if you are shopping for life insurance with higher cholesterol. Some applicants may pay higher premium rates, but you can qualify for an affordable insurance policy if your cholesterol is on the borderline of high and you do not have any other underlying conditions.
Based on your health and medical history, you will be assigned any of the following ratings: Preferred Plus, Preferred, Standard, orSub-standard. The better the rating, the lower the cost of life insurance.
Some of the things to keep in mind while shopping for life insurance with a high cholesterol diagnosis are:
- Underwriters look at your overall health
Underwriters will factor in your overall health, not just cholesterol, into pricing. If you do not have any other risk factors and your cholesterol is borderline high, it is not likely to affect your life expectancy much (if at all). As a result, a slightly skewed cholesterol reading will not raise your premium rates.
If you have other risk factors, such as obesity, heart disease, or a family history of coronary artery disease, the underwriter and life insurance company may reasonably expect you die considerably earlier than a healthy peer. In this case, the insurer may quote you higher premiums to compensate for the extra risk.
- Moderately high cholesterol may lower the health rating by one level
Moderately high cholesterol is likely to lead to as lightly lower rating. If the insurer would have otherwise offered you a Preferred Plus rating, a moderately high cholesterol diagnosis will get you aPreferred rating. If your cholesterol is extremely high (total cholesterol over300) and you are not managing your condition well, you are likely to qualify for a Standard rating.
How much does a lower rating impact your price? A lower health rating is likely to increase your monthly insurance premium by 15%to 30%.
Generally, life insurance companies do not reject applicants based on high cholesterol alone. But if you also have other health conditions, you may be declined coverage. In this situation, a no-medical exam policy will be your only option to secure some level of life insurance protection.
- The LDL-to-HDL ratio is an important health marker
Apart from your total cholesterol, the underwriter will also look at your LDL-to-HDL ratio. Your low-density lipoprotein reading divided by your high-density lipoprotein will give you your LDL-to-HDL ratio.Health experts consider a ratio of 5 and under as protective. If this ratio is over5, you can expect your health rating to drop by a level even if your total cholesterol is barely over 200 because an LED-to-HDL ratio of over 5 doubles the risk of developing heart disease.
- Your health rating is not set in stone
All is not lost if you are offered a higher-than-expected premium rate due to skewed cholesterol numbers. You can request the provider to reassess your health risk and premium after your cholesterol levels have been under control for a year. You will likely be asked to take another medical exam. But if the test results are in your favor, you can secure a more favorable premium rate.
Tips to lower cholesterol
Lowering cholesterol is easier than you may think. Small lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving your health. Better health, in turn, increases your chances of buying an affordable policy from a life insurance company.
These five simple lifestyle changes can significantly improve your cholesterol levels.
- A healthy diet: Saturated fats, mainly found in full-fat dairy products and red meat, are not good for your cholesterol. The same goes for trans fats, which are frequently used in store-bought cakes, cookies, and crackers. Reducing the intake of these two and adding more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber to your diet can help lower the LDL cholesterol.
- Regular exercise: Exercise can improve your HDL cholesterol level up to 20% and reduce your LDL level by up to 15%. If you exercise regularly, you are likely to see noticeable changes in your LDL level after just 4 to 6 months and in your HDL level after 9 to 12 months.
- Quite smoking: Quitting smoking can help you improve your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Losing weight: Being overweight and having high cholesterol is clearly a bad combination. However, the good news is that shedding the extra pounds can make a huge difference. Reduce your calorie intake and add more physical activity into your daily routine to trim down your waistline and improve overall health.
- Consume alcohol in moderation: While light to moderate alcohol consumption may improve HDL cholesterol, but the benefits are not substantial enough to recommend drinking to someone who does not drink. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on your cholesterol levels. If you like drinking, do so in moderation. For women of all ages and men over aged 65, that means not having more than a drink per day. For men aged 65 and younger, it means not more than two drinks a day.
High cholesterol is a health concern as it increases the risk of heart disease. That said, you will still be able to qualify for life insurance with a high cholesterol diagnosis. But you may have to pay more than a healthy person of your age and sex. How much more you will pay depends on the severity of your condition and overall health. If you have high cholesterol and are looking for an affordable life insurance policy, Dundas Life can help you. We work with top Canadian insurers and can get you competitive term life and whole life rates.
Frequently asked questions
1. Can you obtain life insurance with a high cholesterol diagnosis?
If you have high cholesterol, you will still be able to secure life insurance coverage. However, you may have to pay higher premiums than a healthy peer. Severely high cholesterol along with other health concerns, like heart disease, may lead to a life insurance application rejection.
2. Is term or whole life insurance better for someone with high cholesterol?
Life insurance needs are rarely one-size-fits-it-all.So, the answer to this question depends on your financial needs and budget. Term life insurance is for a set number of years and is the cheaper of the two. With a whole life policy, you get lifelong protection and living benefits that you can access while you are still alive. If you want life insurance protection fora certain period, like until you retire or pay off the mortgage, a term life policy may work out better. Whole life, by contrast, may be a better choice for those who wish to combine life insurance with investment account or leave a legacy for their children or grandchildren.
3. How much life insurance do I need?
How much coverage you should buy depends on why you are taking out a life insurance policy. If you want life insurance to compensate your family for the loss of your income, multiply your annual income by the number of years for which you want to provide income replacement. If you have debts that your estate may inherit after you are gone, factor them in as well. Some people buy life insurance to leave an inheritance to their children or grandchildren. If that is your reason for applying, decide how big a financial gift you want to leave to your loved ones.
4. Can I be denied life insurance coverage due to high cholesterol?
If your cholesterol is extremely high and you have other related conditions, like obesity or heart disease, your application maybe turned down. In this situation, a no-medical life insurance policy can be a good option. Because there is no medical exam, you can qualify for it regardless of your health or medical history.